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  The New Paper 24 Apr 07
'Scum' spotted at MacRitchie Reservoir: Vile or Mild?
PUB: Water quality closely monitored
By Teh Jen Lee

SCUM, goo, sludge. Not exactly what you would like to see in water that would eventually end up in your home. Yet, that's what visitors to MacRitchie Reservoir have been seeing.

This is the part of the reservoir near the Lornie Trail boardwalk. Mr Joseph Lai, a botanist, described the 'scum' layer as 'awfully viscous and vile' in his blog, where he posted pictures of what he saw.

'This is my third time witnessing it in as many months that I can remember. It comes and goes,' he said. He has provided his feedback to the Public Utilities Board (PUB), the national water agency in charge of the land surrounding the reservoirs.

When The New Paper visited the spot last Monday, we saw faint scum rings near the water discharge point. The scum is also clearly visible to joggers passing by.

One 56-year-old runner, who gave his name only as Mr Terry, said: 'Sometimes it's worse than today, with a whitish sludge covering a 20-metre stretch of the water surface. There's no smell. I do wonder if it's because of pesticide or fertilisers.' The retiree has been jogging near the boardwalk regularly for the past 30 years, sometimes up to four times a week.

Another jogger, engineer Jason Lim, 26, said: 'It looks quite bad. I don't know what is in the goo. It could be run-off from the nearby golf course.' The water appears to be discharging from an adjacent pond, that is behind a fence marked with a 'No trespassing' signboard from Singapore Island Country Club.

Mr Terry said the pond was created about two years ago by damming the stream that used to flow into the reservoir.

Retiree N P Naidu, 67, who passes the area twice a week, said he is 'deeply concerned' as 'it happens about once every three months'. He said: 'It could be due to water from country club, but it could also be due to the water being shallow so the sunlight causes algae to bloom.'

The New Paper went to PUB and SICC for an explanation. As PUB is the landlord, SICC deferred to their reply.

Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said that algae grows in waterbodies when there is ample sunlight. 'In parts of the reservoir where water tends to be calm and still, thin layers of algae, which are harmless, can be found floating in the water.

'The public can be assured that PUB has a stringent and regular water quality monitoring programme to test for various water quality parameters.' Water samples are taken regularly from various parts of the reservoir, including the parts with algae, to test for water quality.

PUB also works closely with operators of golf courses near reservoirs to ensure that the water from these places does not affect the quality of water in the reservoirs.

When told of PUB's reply, Mr Lai asked for more details such as what species of algae was found in the water. 'Certain algae can produce toxins. What species made that bubbly broth? Important details like this can give the discerning public room for scrutiny, validation and reassurance.'

Pollution at MacRitchie Reservoir on Joseph Lai's eart-h.com website

Related articles on Singapore: water issues
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